Friday, July 31, 1998

The Media Aug '97 - July '98

The media play a particularly malevolent part in the continuation of the Status Quo in present day society. Ironically enough it was a group of journalists who uncovered the details of the Watergate scandal, thus donating the real powers that be a patsy with whom to burden all the blame, and the American public with a villain on whom to vent their discontent. In would be pleasant, though I fear a little naive, to believe that these journalists acting on their own initiative uncovered the scoop of the century. I fear that that truth lies more in a nod and a wink in the right place allowing the floodgates to open and an unprecedented impeachment of the head of state to ensue. This cleverly took the heat off the more camera-shy, just as in the Kennedy assassinations the previous decade. The latter example proving beyond doubt that if the National Security Council / CIA wish to keep certain details quiet, their is no Freedom of Information act that will make them comply, they are ‘above the law’. Uncomfortable as it may be for the Americans to contemplate, their are many state actions in their recent history that do not add up.

The media played a large part in the covering of the collapse of the Eastern Block, and therefore were able to have a significant role in the way we back home in the West perceived the whole affair. For those of us not present in East Berlin, Bucharest, Prague or Warsaw or Moscow our opinions were shaped entirely from those events deemed newsworthy by the crews there at the time. Who decided which city to cover, which person(s) to interview, and did anybody care? I, like many others was touched by the pictures of euphoric people atop the wall and passing through the Brandenburg Gate on the 9th November 1989, but then I was only 17 and did not discover the whole story until much later. I look back on these events now and wonder why so many of us felt that history had been made and an oppressed people liberated I was too young and too far away to formulate my own objective opinion I relied on the media to provide me with the facts and thereby the basis to do so. Having only been to Berlin a couple of times I couldn’t fully appreciate the depth and complexity of the GDR problem then. I have now lived in the former GDR, in a city little changed over the six years since the demise of the state save for the rise of the neo-nazi contingent, the rise in unemployment, the rise in competitive consumerism and the fall in western subsidies. I met many people who lived much of their lives under the oppression that we in the West were so glad to see come to an end in the ‘people’s revolutions’ no matter how much blood was shed. I can only presume then that the feelings I felt when I watched the wall torn down, were the product of the media and the state in which I lived.

This is what I was supposed to believe, as a good capitalist I was meant to share the victory of the market economy over its planned counterpart and see the spoils of war, the people dancing in the streets and the end to the threat of global nuclear warfare. The actuality of this period is not for this chapter to address, suffice to say the media served its purpose in suppressing debate on the subject with alarming success. I wonder how Europe would have fared had the Eastern Bloc countries survived long enough to witness the West going through the most crippling recession since the 1950’s. The austerity many families and individuals were forced to endure during this period would not have looked out of place in Eastern Europe, how ironic it would have been if the Soviet Union had been forced to bale us out, perhaps it would have removed the West’s intolerable smugness and self-righteous manner - that in itself would have been grounds for celebration! It has been said that a bank is only as sound as its investors’ money. Whilst the investors remain confident the bank prospers, but input the element of doubt in competence or the stability of circumstances into the minds of the investors and they withdraw their money and look to safer havens, this will ultimately bring about the dissolution of the bank regardless of whether the doubt was well-founded or not. He who controls the element of doubt is a powerful man indeed especially as the capitalist economy is founded on these market principles. One has to ask the question is this situation, where uninvolved individuals can, by speculation, make or break the economies of countries, and therefore influence the fortunes of the citizens, really a sound basis for the governing of society? 

I have wanted to be a journalist/writer since the age of 18, a formerly noble profession in which I thought one could possibly aim to help try to balance the lack of equilibrium between the classes and therefore forge together the makings of a fair and just society for all. This is perhaps particularly important for a person not entirely adhering to any classes and seeking to gain acceptance or at least tolerance from any of them. The steady realisation that all is not well in society at large and notably within the media world has cut deeply, although as I will state many times I myself must confess that I do not hold the solutions to the problems. I believe that the media can function as a communication tool to act on behalf of the people and the state, it is fundamentally there to inform and allow us to have the necessary facts at our disposal in order to formulate a rounded opinion so that we may have a realistic idea as to what is going right and equally importantly what is not. The more people aware of the problems the greater the pool of knowledge within which to discuss the solutions, it is not important who is first to a story or who gets the exclusive rights etc. etc. What is important is that the news business is cleaned up once and for all and we rid ourselves of the mindless pap put out by magnates who would prefer it that we simply by their brand of drivel, shut up and stop asking questions. It is vital that journalists refuse to join the cover-up that is the ‘news’ today and start reporting the real issues, the ones which will affect us and many generations to come. Only this way can we start to address the backlog of information that needs to be supplied to all so that those with the potential intellect to answer some of our present-day concerns can start from a position of strength without having to waste time sifting through useless stories. One key change which I would suggest would be the abandoning of the pretence of objectivity, Karl Marx stated that the Press, one can safely include modern forms of media in this as well, can never be neutral as someone(s)will always control certain factors critical to its survival. Be it the printing presses, the ink, the paper or perhaps most importantly the access to information - the News Agencies.

Furthermore a journalist can never be fully objective due to them looking at events through their own eyes/ears and also using the ways of expression that they know to communicate them to other people. To bastardise a historical quote, Nietzsche once said that “historical objectivity is like a eunuch watching over the harem of world history.” I think this holds perfectly true to the current day, and serves to act as an analogy for all forms of objectivity in general. This means unless we are to remove the parts of ourselves that feel as well as the parts that judge things owing to past experiences, we can never view or explain happenings in a fully detached fashion. Now one solution is that offered by Marx who maintains that the press be in the hands of the state, which in turn is subservient to the people, thus the Media, now openly subjective, should work for the good of the people by working for the good of the state. This appears at first to be theoretical and sentimental lefty claptrap, some would say dangerously naive perhaps, there will naturally be those that disagree with such ideas, many of them with their own reasons for doing so. Others, I feel have purely been hoodwinked by the rhetoric of the Right since the collapse of the Eastern Block, they believe that the Free Press should always be the goal even if it be somewhat far off. I would strongly assert that this is in fact the dangerously naive principle, for it is far more pragmatic to recognise the impossibility of the task and therefore plan action accordingly. For those still with doubts one only has to look at who benefits from the present media set-up and how the magnates such as Murdoch, Springer, Black are able to ensure their own financial security and in addition the propagation of their political views, - it is perhaps no surprise that all the major news magnates control the right-wing press, which of course in many countries accounts for the only choice the population have, or could it in fact be the case that Murdoch is a closet communist who prints right-wing papers in a tongue in cheek fashion, or aiming to educate the people in the evils of capitalism in the method of ‘Die Welle’. The more worrying factor is the more covert control exacted over the News Agencies which supply most, and in some cases all, of the information that all the Media uses not simply that owned by the press barons, although this section of the ‘free’ Media is scant enough. When this position occurs in History it is regarded for what it is, ‘Totalitarianism’.

In my opinion one only has to look at the Pre-Second World War Press in Germany to gauge the possible consequences of the road down which we are hurtling. // Hugenberg Dates TelegraphenUnion WIPRO etc. etc. //
There are some writers and observers who have recognised the control exacted by the few over the Media which determines the opinion of the many. “At any given moment there is a sort of all pervading orthodoxy, a general tacit agreement not to discuss large and uncomfortable facts” stated George Orwell, this is succinctly paraphrased by Noam Chomsky in what he chillingly calls the ‘Manufacture of Consent’. John Pilger in his book ‘Hidden Agendas’ writes, “ For us in democracies, the message of our saturation ‘free’ media is that there is only one way now, and opposition is heresy and fatalism ideal.” It is this ‘fatalism’, this ’manufactured consent’ that is the most dangerous of all the things that the ‘Establishment’ can throw at us, it is the self-censorship, we believe that as the present course is unavoidable it is best to go along with it. We stop looking for alternatives and stop forcing the decision-makers to justify those decisions. In this way Capitalism has entrenched itself far more than it should have been allowed and those now with their fingers in every hierarchical pie are going to be extremely tough to shift.

This is not to say that any would-be megalomaniac in the West necessarily has plans to do the same, yet, or moreover that s/he would be allowed to do so were they to try, however with the mechanism already in place one must wonder whether we will be able/ be allowed to check the status all the time, one slip-up and the consequences would be catastrophic.
I believe that all of us wish to express our own views to an audience, whether we feel we have the ability to do so or not. What is it that makes us lack this courage? We do not wish to look stupid and be ridiculed so we cover up our individual participation: “I have a friend who has a problem” or alternatively “hypothetically speaking, what if...?”. This passes the buck and allows us theoretically to express ourselves without fear of being exposed. What we could say if only we owned a newspaper and could employ like-minded journalists working under directives written in stone or would take the flack for us were our opinion not to be palatable. If these journalists were truly free then one would surely not take the risk of associating our good name with their potentially embarrassing views. If our opinions however were known, the rules of conduct crystal clear as was the knowledge of who is the boss how many dissenting voices would be likely to be heard? This being said what would be so wrong supplanting the individual at the top with an idea, mutually acceptable, let us call it the common good, tinkering with the iron directives and we’re almost back to Marx’s/Hegelian theory again. 

This was not entirely the case in the Eastern Block, the individual was replaced by ‘the party’ which often in reality did mean an individual as in the case of Stalin, Ceacescu, or Honecker but the difference here appears to be the reluctance of the majority of the Eastern Europeans to accept the facade allowing them therefore to read/listen/watch the media knowing that this was the state line. In the Western world this accepted line is passed off as objectivity and factual information beyond reproach. It is a great pity that the free media that set itself up in the transition period that followed the collapse of the Eastern bloc has been subsumed by the Western media machines, under the guise of market competition. The government has sold off its holding companies and thereby the presses, the paper companies, the press agencies, radio and television stations alike to the highest bidder, a process naturally favouring the affluent free-booting Western media magnates. What chance would a small co-operative of journalists and editors from Sachsen-Anhalt have in bidding against the giant expansionist Springer Verlag during one of the greatest industrial bargain basement auctions to take place in Europe. Naturally the co-op could try to continue its operation from make-shift premises but who will buy the local paper with all its advertisements and cover price twice that of the national daily with its numerous on-the-spot correspondence, regional supplements, cover photographs, exclusives and just ten pence on Mondays with extra sports section and free pull-out Royal magazine? Without State subsidies, enough newspapers must at least be sold to cover the overheads so in the late eighties and early nineties a very real opportunity to trial a de-centralised and relatively objective and independent media was sadly lost, perhaps forever. There is a slogan in East Germany the translation of which reads “I want my wall back and this time ten metres higher”. It is now put on T-shirts and sold to tourists just as the wall itself (and every other chopped up piece of slap-dash concrete in East Berlin) was. There is now a small bit of “Ost-bloc” in the living rooms and display cabinets of thousands if not millions of people all over the Western world. The symbol that was once the largest monument against the Capitalist West has in fact, in its death throes, become one of the most marketable pieces of capitalist merchandise this century. The T-shirt slogan shows that this irony is not entirely lost amongst the East Germans, though they find it less and less amusing as the subsidies fail to arrive, unemployment goes up and educational standards and prospects for the future go down.
The structure of the media is not simply built upon the whims of individuals, but rather a concept more sinister that touches on many of the situations that I have already mentioned and others that I will come to in due course.

The dawn of the 21st century heralds the widespread permeation of the Multimedia into all strata of Society, the Internet, lest one forgets was set up by the CIA to allow a continued accessing and transferral of information in the event of a global nuclear holocaust both during and after. The firm guards their secrets and technological advances as a Dragon would a cave of riches, I cannot believe that the Internet has been allowed to fall into the hands of Joe Public purely as an act of democratic benevolence. If, what the Americans say is true, the threat to the civilised world remains great, wouldn’t the CIA and the National Security Council want to hold on to this huge asset with its fallout purposes and intelligence potential? Alternatively, the explanation might be that the CIA and NSC decided that they could keep a far more covert eye on the world with Joe Public logging in every day to check his E-mail and ‘surf the net’. This is no random conspiracy theory as the American tracking stations across Europe testify to. The one in the North of Scotland is powerful enough to receive all the telephone conversations and filter through to look for keywords to monitor the activities of ‘known subversives’. As if that wasn’t enough the notorious clipper chip seems to be the final proof backing up this argument. For those new to “cyber surfing” the clipper chip was a method by which the American government planned to give themselves a back door access to all e-mail accounts and internet log-ins. This would allow them access to personal and business information rather like the post office having a quick glance at the letters passing through their hands to check for illicit material of a subversive, anti-establishment, anti-social nature. Bearing in mind most e-mail accounts have their source in the USA this would in effect have allowed the American government to scrutinise files and data pertaining to people over whom they should have no jurisdiction. Added to this it is worth remembering that not all countries have to declare such policy intentions to the public and it is therefore conceivable that some countries, at the behest of the Americans and not wishing to displease this potentially powerful ally, have implemented the clipper chip or similar such device to monitor the data of their citizens or “cyber immigrants” operating within their geographical boundaries. Whilst this may not seem life-threatening one need only look at the McCarthy era in the United States to show the damage caused by state suspicion and associations with supposedly suspicious elements. Of course nowadays many people may consider themselves too clever and devise elaborate encoding and decoding programs to protect their information/opinions, this is hardly likely to allay the suspicions of an eagerly prying state. Such themes are seldom tackled by the media not necessarily for want of interest so much as lack of proof, but the inaction the longer it continues leads us down a path foreseen by Orwell as early as 1948. 

Sometimes citizens cry out “injustice” often prompted by reports in the media and the people wait for something to be done about it, but it is no coincidence that at these points something equally gripping and possibly more moving will quickly be scheduled to divert people’s attention to events considerably further away from home. Reports of wars in Africa or Bosnia and famines and droughts across the third world will be brought back into the public eye again should people decide to recall facts such as the bombers of the Lockerbie plane still roaming free, or that lawyers are being killed when investigating or prosecuting Mafia bosses, or journalists murdered for asking too many awkward questions about the IRA or simply people questioning the unquestionable in whatever capacity. The Status Quo rolls on in the inevitable fashion of a bulldozer through a flat field, it cares little for what lies in its path and it would be folly to expect the wheels to grind to a halt to avoid crushing a blade of grass.

Politics July '98

Over the last few decades it has been ever easier to see the lack of any reasonable politics that lie in the traditional left of centre spot. What many perceived as having occupied this position since the 50’s, the Eastern Bloc or China, could under no circumstances be considered close to the ideal that they purported to espouse by anyone that really knows their Socio-Communism. However the demise of the Soviet Union and with it the other states of COMECON has had profound effects on the structure of the world and also the perception of left-wing ideology. The USA has turned it’s vitriolic attacks upon the threat of the Islamic world, in particular, Iraq. The seeming triumph of the capitalist West over the “communist” East has led also to a rise in various forms of Fundamentalism as Capitalism permeates every sector of Society and the average politics of the people and the institutions which govern or indoctrinate them veers alarmingly to the Right. One could be forgiven for thinking that there is not even any country remaining that conforms to the old ‘pseudo-communist’ order, China has been for many years America’s ‘most favoured trading nation’ and little mention is made in the media of Cuba or Vietnam. It puzzles me why the USSR with its ‘dangerous political ideology’ merited the 30 year armaments stand-off that defined the lives of most of the citizens of the Western world and the Eastern-Bloc and yet China manages to cover its political dogma with an invisibility cloak. Many of us cannot entirely complain as the Cold War perpetrated some of the most inhuman actions and politics and indoctrinated millions in both East and West alike to despise an ideal that was ultimately supposed to help them. The case of Cuba however, should not be allowed to be swept under the carpet quite so hastily; Cuba still lives under the shadow of an American trade embargo, this policy of the United States’ is in fact contra the orders of the United Nations, yet America appears willing to flout the UN regulations when it suits, and yet playing the World-wide police force when another country looks to follow this example.

The inherent hypocrisy and in some cases ‘toadying’ within the foreign policies of many Western countries is often embarrassing and sometimes downright immoral. Why is it for example that the United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong to the Chinese and yet refuses to contemplate doing the same with the counties of Ulster in Ireland? What is the difference in circumstances? The Chinese believed Hong Kong to be rightfully theirs and it was agreed that it would be repatriated long ago, although until recent times it was not clear if the British would adhere to their part of the bargain. The Irish believe all of Ireland belongs to them, all the provinces bar none. Their was no repatriation agreement, the British simply freebooted in during their military heyday, wishing to put an end to the support that the catholic Irish were providing to the Jacobite cause waging against the then monarch William of Orange. Perhaps if some settlement had been entered into then it would not be causing such problems now. What of the idea that the majority of Ulster considers itself to be British? The people of Hong Kong had the same idea, it did not aid their cause, nor persuade the British government to part with any full-citizen passports enabling the holder to take up residence in the UK. In fact it is more likely the case that there is a greater number in Ulster wishing the five counties to join the Republic, than there were pro-Chinese in Hong Kong. There is of course a violent history in Northern Ireland of terrorism and mindless slaughter, much as there has been in China - Tiananmann Square just one infamous example. So what is it that has made the situations so similar in essence but so different in outcome? I do not think it takes a genius to work out the disparity in world-wide influence that China commands compared to the Republic of Ireland. After all, only one is reputed to be a nuclear power, that same one with a vast army and general population, also called a Communist dictatorship, and yet enjoying trading status with the Western World far beyond the dreams of the former Soviet Union, such as America’s most favoured trading nation.

Britain is a country with a 50 year history of sucking up to our ‘transatlantic cousins’, a ‘special relationship’ which the United States sees fit to turn off and on as and when it suits, such as using it for bombing campaigns against targets normally far out of their reach such as Libya. Also their monitoring stations such as Menwith Hill which allow them to search all telephone conversations throughout Europe looking for keywords, presumably to keep an eye on the Communists and the genuine Liberals- let’s be frank the States has never really trusted Europe, and the sensible part of Europe has never really trusted the States. The problem is that Britain has constantly given the US a foothold with which to keep a close watch on the competition. Britain’s refusal to support any further European integration during the 1980’s must have had them laughing all the way to Capitol Hill. A way to keep Europe divided, and they didn’t even have to appear a part of it.

One of the main problems today, affecting politics, is the constant mutation of all forms of political ideology. There are no true Marxists, communists or capitalists anymore as the classical ideologies have been modernised/bastardised. This has happened to ideologies for centuries and in Western Europe ever since an unsuspecting Catholic monk named Martin Luther criticised the clerical establishment from a small town in south-eastern Germany and inadvertently created a new religious doctrine. Neither the orthodox ideas of Marx nor the economic ideas of Adam Smith are fully adhered to on either side of the political spectrum, and some might say they never have been. There is however, one ideology that through all its mutations remains terrifyingly constant - it is the doctrine of hate and jealousy, it is fascism. From Nazism to Fundamentalism it is truly the ideological Phoenix and the actions that it spawns are familiar to all generations even when the title is not. Unfortunately fascism is becoming more subconsciously accepted as order and conformity are the latest vote winners. This gives rise to a mistrust of variety or individuality and the outcasts from society - foreigners, drop-outs, drug addicts, the homeless, gypsies, the unemployed, non-conformists or romantic idealists become the universal scapegoats for the problems or the shortcomings of the have-nots. Hatred is whipped up by Right wing politicians and Armani-suited politicians who would have you believe that the foreigners are taking your jobs, smokers and other drug dependants are using up the NHS resources and all of the above-mentioned groups are responsible for the rise in crime and the destruction of the traditional family unit. The case in reality is that, in Britain as in most other economically developed countries, the foreigners are drafted in as cheap labour to do the jobs that the indigenous population would rather not undertake. This task is often the domain of the larger corporations who in Britain are able to take advantage of Draconian employer powers that after Thatcher’s dismantling of the trade unions, are exploited uncontested.

The hospital problem is equally uncomplicated, the ‘have’s’ use the NHS for the less important things but “go private” when it comes to the crunch. It is economically profitable whilst not being detrimental to the health for them to play the two systems and the government elected mostly on the whims of these people appears to mirror their lack of concern for the decline in social resources. Equally if the problem of drug addiction, by this both alcohol and tobacco, was handled more comprehensively and emphasis was put on cure for those already addicted and prevention for those who are not rather than economic profitability and fiscal usefulness, it would surely be easier to contain. I include nicotine in this because currently there are many complaints about the evils of tobacco and smokers are being forced to retreat into ever-smaller and darker corners to satisfy their addiction and I believe that nothing is being done to help those smokers who might wish to finally break free of the chain. In this respect nicotine should be classified as a class A highly addictive “hard drug” and smokers should be given the same chance for rehabilitation, provided by the state, as others addicted to drugs of similar genre such as heroin or cocaine. The cost increase in the short-term of this rehabilitation would be offset by the decrease in the medication, time and space required for the long-term treatment of cancer, emphaszema and bronchitis. The legal implementation of such a policy paper would be about a popular as a wild boar running amok during the Harrods sale and probably political suicide for the member responsible for its conception! The tobacco industry exercises considerable influence through its own profit making and tax generating potential and therefore whilst kept on side can be a good friend to an out-of-pocket government. As with all business relationships however, the right palms have to be greased. Perhaps the “Benson and Hedges” operating theatre or “Marlborough drug rehabilitation centre” would keep everybody happy. 

These are examples of the manipulation of the population by the industry magnates through the democratically elected government and the “modernisation” of language. It all leads to the same ends, namely intolerance, which is unhealthy in any society. Multi-cultural societies should be seen as potentially educational situations as there is always something that we can learn or appreciate about ourselves by looking, communicating and co-operating with those who are different from us. We Europeans should not forget that through the centuries of colonisation and civilisation of four of the world’s continents we established a metropolis/satellite relationship and “persuaded” these countries to accept out way of life as correct. They were taught through many generations that their respective colonial power be it France, Spain, Britain, Portugal, Germany or Holland was the Motherland, we really have only ourselves (or our ancestors) to blame if they have taken us at our word deciding to try to battle themselves out of poverty and famine by seeking their fortune in the lands of plenty.

It is interesting also to look at the linguistic differences in the way in which we refer to these people. For example the German word Gastarbeiter (guest worker) suggests that the person whilst being hospitably received is nevertheless expected to return home. The truth is that many of these workers in Germany, especially those from Turkey were drafted en masse as a source as a source of cheap labour with which to commence the rebuilding of the German economy post-1945, hence the largest percentage of these Turks remain in the Ruhrgebiet, Germany’s traditional industrial heartland. When they came originally throughout the forties and fifties there was no mention either upfront or in the small print that once Germany was great again they would be expected to leave. Equally the supposed huge influx of foreigners into Germany is relative in European terms. Germany remains low in the percentage of foreign per native population and is below that of both Belgium and France. The pressure cooker of the former East Germany receives a mere one percent of all refugees entering into the entire Federal republic. Now in contrast to this is the word for these people on Swedish Enwanderer which loosely translated means “wandering in” and clearly gives a different impression of how the person is to be viewed.

Philosophy - July '98

I feel that if we cannot pick holes in the arguments of past philosophers then one of two things must be the case: either we have not progressed past the ideological state in which the idea found its conception, or the point must be valid (pending the input of future thinkers) regardless of time-frame.

Control is one of the most important factors in the maintenance of modern democracies. The pretence in these societies is that any given individual enjoys the right to choose the path of his/her life and effectively regulate his/her own destiny, the facade of these rights is backed up by the society’s constitution (in those democracies that have one) which guarantees certain fundamental principles in a supra-governmental capacity, supposedly safeguarding them from the day-to-day tinkerings of an emerging dictatorship. Thus, in theory it is the constitutional right of every American to burn the flag of the United States in peaceful protest, in practise however it is ill-advisable to do so especially in Southern states as one can expect to have the aforementioned constitutional article violently beaten out of you! This is rather bizarre when one compares this with England, where there are no constitutional rights to safeguard the citizen and yet one would not expect any reprisals if one was to burn the Union Jack, excepting certain areas of East and South-East London where the extreme right-wing forces are in abundance. The tactic in a democracy is that if one goes to such ends to proclaim a freedom, the populous must at least believe that they have it, and if not then a viable scapegoat must be provided that the public can reasonably believe is subversive enough to try to thwart the benevolent State and would sink so low as to deny them their rights:- foreigners, non-conformists, teenagers, students, political deviants, social deviants (homosexuals), anyone normally marginalised, the details are unimportant. There are usually enough people pushing the right buttons for anyone feeling downtrodden to be able to take their pick from the list of suitable ‘offenders’, the ‘Usual Suspects’ as it were. This is not a new situation in Western Europe, the Jews an testify to that over many centuries of purges and pogroms as in fact can the Hugenots, the heretics, the Catholics (at the hands of the Protestants) and the Protestants ( at the hands of the Catholics). In my opinion though, the difference with contemporary nationalism is a subtlety and a slickness and an almost state sanctioned quiet arrogance that the leaders appear to possess.

The targets of these movements are becoming more and more random and it is increasingly difficult for the man in the street to keep himself out of the “persona non grata” section of society. Christian fundamentalism is “justified” as being a reaction to Islamic fundamentalism, the latter presumably using precisely the same argument. Both of these groups are no more than religious fascists and I would imagine that the one that finds it least amusing is God/Allah/call him/her what you will, and I would wager that the profits are hardly chortling in corners. If this sounds blasphemous and I an criticised for it, I suggest that one first looks at the members of these groups committing mortal sins, killing one another before we are to start blasting people for exposing idiosyncracies and injustices of it all. For the genuine religious souls who adhere to their teachings and at heart humanist ideals my sympathy and admiration goes out. I can only hope that they continue to do so and contrive that this will be the example set to the new prereligious generation, rather than the one of those who masquerade under the guise of goodness and religion. Is it really surprising that in Marx’ writings organised religion was termed “opium for the people”. It is no coincidence that most of the wars fought involve to a greater or lesser extent groups of differing religions (however slight these differences may seem to the casual observer) Northern Ireland, the Persian Gulf and the states of the former Yugoslavia are merely small contemporary selections of twentieth century conflict that is happening on our doorstep. This is unfortunately no new phenomenon and whilst many people across religious, socio-political and geographical divides may be aware of the effects, they may not pay due attention to the causes and the bigots high up in the political and religious spheres who use the fear to their advantage and to reinforce their opinions. Knowledge and mass condemnation of the holocaust in WWII leads many nowadays to believe that ‘it could never happen here, not in the civilised world’. After many such events throughout history it should come as no surprise that these crimes against humanity occur, perhaps more surprising is that they do not happen more often. By this I mean, that as such episodes of genocide have occurred since WWII and yet the international community stands idly by, it is a wonder that not more tin-pot dictators do not try their luck to call the U.N.’s bluff. The peoples of East Timor, Cambodia and Bosnia amongst others have been subjected to policies of ethnic cleansing in the last 20 to 30 years. They would argue that such policies have been happening all along in one shape or form in nearly every conflict since WW11 but the international community has either chosen not to notice or somehow the details are never allowed to reach us, and lo and behold! we return to the problems of the media.

Noam Chomsky did a study of press reports from the late 1960’s comparing those in the New York Times concerning Cambodia and the atrocities committed there and the invasion of East Timor by the Indonesians that happened concurrently. A massive amount of reports flooded in about Cambodia, including information about a mass genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge before it had in fact been committed. Sadly the same situation was true in East Timor, but the articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post had been lifted sentence by sentence from the London Times and factual information was scant to say the least. Chomsky asserted that the reason for this was clear: the Americans, at that time were rampant in Vietnam, and had promised to protect Cambodia and its people from the marauding Khmer Rouge guerillas. The Khmer Rouge, who in turn were supporting and were supported by the Vietkong, were therefore at war against the Americans by association. The necessary vilification of the “communists” ran in tandem with standard American foreign policy vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. East Timor, however was attacked by the Indonesians, who were considered friends of the Western World, good arms and munitions buyers and it would therefore have been politically hazardous to upset such a lucrative trade. Many inside East Timor have probably perished trying to do just that. Those of us on the outside will never know and the status quo: the Indonesian led puppet state, Western Arms dealers (and thereby Western governments will probably never care. The realisation of the futility of the task that the dissidents, revolutionaries and those constantly banging the drum of civil rights face, will lead to most of them moving on to another worthy cause (there are after all so many) and those left fighting behind will be consigned to exist as pocket groups of subversives that the state and counter-revolutionary forces will pick off one by one.

US July '98

The media play a particularly malevolent part in the continuation of the Status Quo in present day American society. Ironically enough it was a group of journalists who uncovered the details of the Watergate scandal, thus donating the real powers that be a patsy with whom to burden all the blame, and the American public with a villain on whom to vent their discontent. In would be pleasant, though I fear a little naive, to believe that these journalists acting on their own initiative uncovered the scoop of the century. I fear that that truth lies more in a nod and a wink in the right place allowing the floodgates to open and an unprecedented impeachment of the head of state to ensue. This cleverly took the heat off the more camera-shy allowing them to continue about their sinister business, just as in the Kennedy assassinations the previous decade. The latter example proving beyond doubt that if the National Security Council / CIA wish to keep certain details quiet, their is no Freedom of Information act that will make them comply, they are ‘above the law’.

Uncomfortable as it may be for the Americans to contemplate, there are many state actions in their recent history that do not add up. The electorate seem eager to accept the state version of events and believe justice to have been done, unfortunately it merely prolongs the time-bomb as sooner or later the facts will have to be faced and dealt with. A particular incident I find disquieting is the spate of ‘Communist’ Witch-hunts at the hands of Senator Macarthy in the 1950’s, one could draw parallels here with the Stalin purges, also an example of Dictatorship getting rid of possible enemies on the grounds of a whiff of suspicion. The example in many ways stops here, for in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe there was, for good or bad, no illusion of free speech or freedom of information in spite of hollow constitutional promises as the American citizens appear to believe they have in their own country. My heart goes out to those families whose loved ones fought against fascism in the Second World War, surviving only to perish at the hands of a more subtle version of it later in the so-called civilised world.

Timor Question - July '98

If a person has access to and has read the right literature, s/he would be forgiven for thinking that the world was fully aware of the East Timor problem and the ,main question would be, ‘Why does no-one do anything?’ The illegal invasion and subsequent genocide carried out by western-trained Indonesian troops has been covered by high-profile figures such as Noam Chomsky and John Pilger who could expect to reach large audiences and perhaps stir some feelings to action. The truth, unfortunately for those who have fallen or are still fighting in East Timor, is less clear-cut, for whilst those exposing the atrocities have some sphere of influence over the intelligentsia, they have long since been dismissed by governments as irritating left-wing intellectual. It is the governments on all sides who perpetuate the situation. The Western ones supplying arms and training to the Indonesian Death-Squads and the Indonesian one continuing to violate the U.N. resolutions as well as the basic human rights of the Timorese people.